MAVNALYSIS: 'Is Devin Better Than Kidd Yet?'

DallasBasketball.com
Posted Dec 7, 2010


We recently issued a throwaway line: “So, is Devin Harris better than Jason Kidd yet?’’ Decorated DB.com reader Bob Sturm felt robbed. He wanted 1,500 analytical words on the subject. For him, and for you, with Milkface’s Nets in town tonight to play J-Kidd’s Mavs … here’s 1,500 analytical words on Devin vs. Kidd:

There was one major reason to be opposed to the Feb. 19, 2008 trade with New Jersey that sent then-developing star Devin Harris in exchange for future Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd:

Age.

Devin was 25. In addition to his brilliant speed, defensive guts, high character and membership on the 2006 Western Conference championship team, most of all what Devin was was young.

Kidd, at the same time, was assumed to be on his last legs. He was 34 when the “Triangle of Trust’’ of Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Avery Johnson pulled the trigger on the blockbuster.

That was the objection. The objection was issued here at DallasBasketball.com.

Here we are three years later. Devin is now 28. Kidd is now 37.

The age objection is still waiting to be validated. Devin, with an All-Star Game to his credit, is still “on the come.’’ Kidd, with 10 All-Star Games to his, as well as five first-team All-NBA berths, is still on the go.

Now, we can choose to ignore Kidd’s rich NBA history and simply fast-forward to last season. Maybe that is a fairer way to compare the point guards who will square off tonight at the AAC – “fairer’’ certainly to anybody who still believes that the Nets got the better end of the deal because of their anticipation of Devin’s future greatness.

So, looking at last year…

2009-2010

per 36

Jason Kidd

Devin Harris

Points

10.3

17.5

Assists

9.0

6.9

Rebounds

5.6

3.3

Steals

1.8

1.3

Blocks

0.4

0.3

TO

2.4

2.9

FG%

0.423

0.403

3P%

0.425

0.276

FT%

0.808

0.798

2009-2010

Advanced

Jason Kidd

Devin Harris

Plus/Minus

+5.75

-3.02

Off Plus/Minus

+1.66

+4.33

Def Plus/Minus

+4.08

-7.34

Adj Plus/Minus

-0.92

-3.15

WS/48

0.148

0.057

PER

17.2

16.2

Off Rating

115

103

Def Rating

105

112

Statistical fact: In 2009-11, Kidd was better than Harris in literally every category other than points/36 and offensive plus/minus.

In this portion of the debate, the “age’’ issue is immaterial.

The “quality-of-team’’ issue is pertinent to some degree, maybe, though if Devin Harris is that “budding superstar,’’ maybe he should be good enough to prevent his team from finishing with a 12-win season. Meanwhile, anybody who watches the Mavs will acknowledge the credit due Kidd for leadership resulting in more 50-win seasons.

Injuries? Devin sustains injuries. Maybe it’s that wonderfully reckless style of play or maybe it’s fragility, but it is fact. Meanwhile, Kidd does not sustain injuries, That, too, is historical fact.

One more note that favors Kidd: We all knew that Devin wasn’t a jump-shooter. Even as a blue-chip-draftee (No. 5 overall in the …. NBA Draft), he had that flaw. Once, Devin told us that he’d shot 500 jumpers a day over the summer, causing us to launch a resounding joke:

“Yeah, but how many of the 500 did you make?’’

Kidd couldn’t shoot, either. … until he arrived back in Dallas and reinvented himself, last year becoming a 42.5-percent marksman from the arc while Harris was in New Jersey clanging away at a 27.6-percent clip.

So, even as Devin had theoretically matured … and even as Kidd had theoretically slowed … there should be no debate that Kidd was the better point guard and player last year over Harris.

What about this year? Let’s play with the same categories as above for 2010 (through 20 games for Kidd and 19 games for Harris):

2010-2011

per 36

Jason Kidd

Devin Harris

Points

8.9

19.7

Assists

9.8

7.4

Rebounds

4.5

3.0

Steals

1.7

1.2

Blocks

0.2

0.1

TO

2.5

3.5

FG%

0.361

0.475

3P%

0.357

0.333

FT%

0.810

0.853

2010-2011

Advanced

Jason Kidd

Devin Harris

Plus/Minus

+11.06

+10.47

Off Plus/Minus

+11.61

+12.67

Def Plus/Minus

-0.55

-2.2

Adj Plus/Minus

-7.45

+17.61

WS/48

0.135

0.155

PER

15.4

21.0

Off Rating

109

113

Def Rating

102

109

It appears as though the kid is catching up with the Kidd.

Harris is on an improved team, and that helps. But more than that, it seems that Harris himself is a far better player – at least according to his numbers. His adjusted plus/minus is an astounding +17.61, he has improved his scoring and assist numbers, and has improved his shooting across the board. Devin has also raised his PER above 20.0 which means that he is performing at an elite level in regard to efficiency.

What about Jason Kidd? Kidd’s shooting has slipped, so has his adjusted plus/minus, and his PER has taken a slight dip. But other than that Kidd seems to be performing at a relatively comparable level to last year. (And with 62 games to go, he will certainly have the opportunity to turn things around. The Mavs certainly hope that is the case in the Jason’s long-distance shooting, which has gone Back to the Future a bit … and yet from the arc, is still superior to Devin’s).

So has Devin finally passed Kidd? Through 19 games and 20 games respectively, he seems on the cusp of doing so.

A lot could certainly change in the next 60-plus games, but it can be argued that three years after the trade, Harris is finally at least matching Kidd in raw basketball performance.

Ah, but if it were only that simple, none of would have ever had to approach our crack dealers.

Devin was anointed (along with Brook Lopez) as the leader of an Avery Johnson-coached Nets team that entered the week with a 6-15 record, having over the weekend just scored 79 points in four quarters in an OT loss to Charlotte and 75 points in a blowout loss to Boston. New Jersey ranks next-to-last in NBA scoring.

Devin’s 2010 Nets aren’t as bad as Devin’s 2009 Nets, which finished 12-70. But they are Devin’s Nets and they are not good.

Kidd’s Mavs (and, in fairness, Dirk’s Mavs) need two more wins to total as many consecutive victories in this early season as New Jersey totaled wins of any sort all last season.

Intangibles. BBIQ. Leadership. Fit. And the measurable that is durability: Over the last three years, Kidd is averaging 15 more games per season than Devin. You can’t help the club from the tub … so while each player has his respective skills, Kidd brings his to the floor far more often than Harris (who is right now nursing a knee problem) has been able to. That is invaluable.

The debate will certainly continue, but one thing can be said for certain: the Mavs front office probably knew what it was doing when it made the trade. Cuban and Co. judged the roster-with-Devin not good enough to win a title … so they swung for the fences in an attempt to be better than that.

It has not in any way (yet?) “mortgaged Dallas’ future.’’ We’re three years in and those three years of "future'' have been fine with Kidd. There is no way to establish that it has robbed the Mavs of an opportunity that would’ve existed with Harris on the team instead of Kidd. And given the opportunity to erase a so-called error 17 months ago, the Mavs instead opted to retain Kidd on a new contract – in part at the urging of Dirk Nowitzki, who believes he is a better player due to his teaming with the iconic basketball QB.

There is really only one area in which the Devin-for-Kidd trade has been folly for the Mavs … and that’s if we insist that the only way it can be judged a success is if Kidd’s Mavs win a title. Using that logic for the last dozen years, no Mavericks transaction – not Cuban’s ownership, Nellie’s stewardship, the draft-day pickup of Dirk, the acquisitions of people like Finley and Nash and now Chandler, none of them – are successful. Because none of them have translated to a title.

The Mavericks are not worse for having done the deal. Jason Kidd has been an entertaining success in Dallas. Devin Harris is already entertaining and in terms of true success, remains “somebody who is someday going to do something.’’

Devin Harris is catching up to Jason Kidd. He’s even going to be better than him.

Someday.

Smile

Visit the DB.com Store: DB.com Night at the Mavs on Dec. 28, two tickets and a T-shirt for $22!


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